(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Lawmakers and activists have called on the government to suspend the country's nuclear programme, accusing officials of violating a parliamentary motion calling for halting the project.
In a public dialogue on a parliamentary report on the Kingdom's nuclear programme on Sunday, lawmakers accused the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) of violating a binding parliamentary motion passed last month requiring officials to halt all work on the country's first nuclear reactor pending the completion of financial feasibility and environmental impact assessments.
"We issued a clear motion requiring the commission to halt all work on the nuclear reactor until we know the true costs and its health and environmental impacts," said Jamal Gammo, who heads the Lower House Energy Committee, which issued the report.
"Unfortunately work has gone on uninterrupted in direct violation of our motion and the will of the public."
The JAEC has contended that the programme is in line with lawmakers' demands, noting that economic feasibility and environmental impact studies - due to be carried out next year - are a precondition to the reactor's construction.
The commission stresses that the programme is currently in the technology selection phase, which they claim does not constitute reactor construction, a claim lawmakers contend.
Energy officials expected to choose between a French-Japanese consortium and a Russian state-owned firm by the end of the year.
During the open session, lawmakers and activists cast doubt over the economic feasibility of the nuclear drive, accusing the JAEC of deliberately underestimating reactor construction costs to "mislead public opinion".
"The commission has repeatedly quoted a price tag of 5 billion" but after thorough research the committee determined that the average international cost of a 1,100 megawatt reactor exceeds 10 billion," Gammo claimed.
MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh, a vocal critic of the nuclear programme, said the committee's findings revealed that potential malfunctions require the establishment of two reactors, which pushes the programme's price tag to over 20 billion.
"This programme is going to cost Jordan nearly twice the national budget; how are we going to pay for these reactors at the end of the day?" Kharabsheh remarked.
JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan previously said that international reactor construction costs average around 5 billion, pointing out that a Russian firm recently agreed to construct two reactors for 7 billion.
During Sunday's debate, former JAEC vice commissioner Nidal Xoubi noted that uranium mining will require some 60 million cubic metres of water per year, an amount that Jordan, classified as the fourth water-poorest country in the world, cannot afford.
Participants also called into question the country's uranium mining ambitions, claiming that the feasibility studies carried out by French firm AREVA, which is currently carrying out an exploration of uranium deposits in the central region, have revealed that the Kingdom's reserves are "commercially unviable".
They also charged that the JAEC's repeated relocation of the preferred site for the nuclear reactor - from Aqaba to Mafraq to the eastern desert region of Hallabat - was a sign that the commission's decision making is based on "politics, not science".
The JAEC contends that its examination of multiple locations is part of a normal reactor siting process, which requires the identification of several potential areas in order to determine the most feasible location.
Sunday's dialogue marked the latest in a series of events calling for suspending the nuclear programme, which officials have prioritised as key to securing the country's energy independence.
Jordan's atomic energy plans call for the construction of two 1,100 megawatt reactors within the next decade in order to wean the country off energy imports, which cost the Kingdom some 25 per cent of its gross domestic product each year.